The Dance of St. Paul's, William Dugdale

Copy by Hollar
Hollar, Hollar 1658

The first person to print the entire text from the dance of death in the cloister at St. Paul's Cathedral was Richard Tottel in 1554. This book is quite rare (and the appendix with the dance of death is even rarer), so for practical purposes the oldest printed text is the one that was published by William Dugdale in his two works: The history of St. Pauls Cathedral and Monasticon Anglicanum.

The history of St. Pauls Cathedral

104 years after Tottel, in 1658, William Dugdale published the book The history of St. Pauls Cathedral. The book was illustrated with many etchings created by Wenceslaus Hollar.

Dugdale mentioned the dance rather briefly: On the VValls whereof was richly portraied the Dance of Death, (viz. the picture of Death leading away all estates) at the charge of Jenkyn Carpenter […] (pp. 131-132). This short mention was mostly based on Stow's information (which Stow in turn had found in the Trinity manuscript), but Dugdale added that Lydgate was one of our famous old Poets, and that he for this reason had included the stanzas in the appendix: VVhich verses I have thought worthy to place in my Appendix.

The text was brought as no. 42 in the appendix, and Hollar created a copy of Tottel's woodcut (picture to the top, right).

It wasn't just the etchings that was copied after Tottel; the text was the same as well.

Copy by Finden after Hollar
Hollar, Hollar 1818

The books was re-published in 1716, "corrected and enlarged by the author's own hand", but in this edition there's only a short mention of the dance. The reference to Hollar's etching is retained: viz. the picture of Death leading away all Estates, but this time Dugdale doesn't say that he has found the verses "worthy to be placed in his appendix". There is neither text nor image.

The book was re-published in 1818 by Henry Ellis, and this time with both tekst and image. All of Hollar's copper plates, including the dance of death procession, had been skillfully copied by William Finden (picture to the left). In contrast to what one might assume, the text is a copy of Monasticon, 1673, and not of The history of St. Pauls Cathedral from 1658.

Monasticon Anglicanum

The great fire of London in 1666 (notice the dance of death in the top, left corner)
St Paul's

Dugdale also produced a work in three volumes in Latin about English monasteries and churches: Monasticon Anglicanum. Volume 1 appeared in 1655, and volume 2 in 1661.

The third volume appeared in 1673, but in the mean time London had fallen victim to the great fire of 1666. The flames had also spread to St. Paul's Cathedral, where 300 copies of The history of St. Pauls Cathedral had perished. A number of Hollar's copper plates had also been damaged and needed repair.

However the dance of death looks as good as new, and the appendix must have been the same as in The history of St. Pauls Cathedral, for the chapter with the 84 stanzas and Hollar's etching is still no. 42. The text is a little updated compared to 1658, and this is the version that is the base for later editions.

The third volume was re-published in 1683, but in reality this issue was simply some old sheets that were left over in 1673 and now were equipped with a new front-page. Therefore the text and images are still on the same pages as in the 1673-version.

In 1693 an "epitome" in 3 parts was published (in one volume). This was a summary in English of Dugdale's three volumes and the dance is mentioned briefly: The dance of death (formerly painted about the Cloyster of St. Pauls) was in French by one Machabree and translated into old English Verse by Dan John of Lydgate, Monk of Bury […] (volume 3, page 302-303).

In 1718 an English translation was published (in reality it was rather another "epitome"): Monasticon Anglicanum: Or, The History of the Ancient Abbies, Monasteries […], presumably by John Stevens. This book contains a number of Hollar's etchings, but not the dance. The text from the dance of death is reproduced on page 333 and following.

Francis Douce

Copy after Hollar
Hollar, Hollar 1790

When Hollar's copies of Holbein's dance of death were reprinted between 1790-1816, the preface was written by Francis Douce. To these books were added a copy of the procession that Hollar had created for Dugdale (picture to the right).

The various editions often had a chapter at the end with the headline The Dance of Macaber that described the dance of death in St. Paul's. Strangely enough is was only a few of these editions that also reproduced the text. This text was a copy of Dugdale's 1673-edition with old errors such as "fronm" instead of "froum" and "helyen" instead of "helpen".

Late reprint of Hollar
Hollar (colour), Hollar 1853

One of the few editions with reprints of Hollar that included the text was published in 1853. But since the print run was only 21 copies, it's hard to track down a copy, and since the book only included 13 af Hollar's etchings, the publishers have presumably included rather few stanzas.

Further information